Hiking High Peaks Trail- Pinnacles National Park
From The Air
Approaching from the south into San Jose International airport California,is a long straight road that seems to go on and on. The long narrow valley with fields,cattle and cliffs is amazingly straight. I have been mesmerizes by this particular area almost every time I have landed in San Jose. Until I visited Pinnacles that road remained a mystery to me. I thought I knew this area.
That road is Highway 25, sometimes called Airport Road, which leads to Pinnacles National Park. This is a National Park that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, but is actually not far from San Jose, California or Monterey, California. Until a few years ago Pinnacles was a national monument, now it is a National Park. The Pinnacles are natural rock formations that lure and intrigue bird watchers, climbers, and hikers.
High PeaksTrail Head
Periodically Rest And Examine The Scenery
This hike is strenuous. Make sure you are physically fit and carrying plenty of fluid and food. The lower part of the trail is shaded and followed a creek. Lizards scurried at our feet as we walked. Once we came out of the undergrowth and began to earnestly climb we wished we were still in the shade. We were so absorbed in the trail that when we stopped for the first time to look around the view was breath-taking. You can see a good distance across the valley and up and down the canyon. Because you switch back and forth it seems you are in the middle of nowhere. There are places you look down you can see the parking lot of the Bear Gulch Day Center. The scenery was luscious green after a winter of heavy rains. About halfway up the trail we crossed a small creek which was another nice place to stop for a brief rest. Each time we would stop for a rest we sipped water, and marveled at the quietude of this beautiful wilderness.
Some of us were slower than the experienced climber of the group. We would send him ahead to find something to climb or take pictures of while we caught up. It has been years since I have climbed, so to see someone gracefully ascend a rock formation and then descend was very exciting. Pinnacles is known for its climbing.
The visitors center carries some basic climbing equipment. Be sure you check for raptor advisories. During mating season some sensitive areas may be restricted.
The quieter you hike the more likely you are to see wild life. We heard the condors before we saw them. They sounded like crows only much louder. We stopped and looked around. There they were about 100 feet to our right. The pair was soaring, dipping and taking turns chasing each other. We watched for awhile as they played then kept walking. As we walked a saddle back the pair flew up a ravine next to us. They were very close. We ended our hike at the intersection of the trails leading to Bear Gulch staging area, high peaks and the ranger lookout station. The raptors played above us as we ate lunch. The trip down went very rapidly.
This hike is strenuous especially if you hike the entire 9 miles. This day it was seventy degrees Fahrenheit or so and for a fast hilly hike it was hot. Each of us carried around 48 ounces of fluid when we started. We were grateful to for the water and Gatorade in the car at the end of the hike.
When I suggested that we go to Pinnacles again in December, the son who never wants to go anywhere with his parents was the first to say, "Yes". It wasn't quite so warm, very dry, and absolutely beautiful. Pinnacles is a great place to get away fall, winter and spring. Pinnacles is a micro climate and during the summer can reach temperatures into the 100 degrees, while the surrounding areas are not nearly so warm. I do not recommend hiking Pinnacles during the summer unless you are planning on exploring the Balcony Caves. The caves are always cool even when the outside temperature is hot.
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